Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Temple, Richard (1669?-1749)

TEMPLE, Sir RICHARD, Viscount Cobham (1669?–1749), born about 1669, was the eldest son of Sir Richard Temple (1634–1697) [q. v.], by his wife Mary, daughter of Henry Knapp of Rawlins, Oxfordshire. He received an ensigncy in Prince George's regiment of foot on 30 June 1685, and was appointed adjutant on 12 April 1687. On 11 July 1689 he obtained a captaincy in Babington's regiment of foot. On 31 Oct. 1694, at the age, according to the college register, of 18, he was admitted fellow-commoner of Christ's College, Cambridge. He took no degree. In May 1697 he succeeded his father in the baronetcy and family estates, and on 17 Dec. he was returned to parliament for the town of Buckingham, his father's constituency, and retained it throughout William's reign. At the time of the general election for Anne's first parliament he was absent from the kingdom, and later was defeated in his candidature for Aylesbury, but was elected for the county on 8 Nov. 1704 by a majority of two votes. He sat for Buckinghamshire in the parliament of 1705, and for the town of Buckingham in those of 1708 and 1710.

On 10 Feb. 1701–2 he was appointed colonel of one of the new regiments raised for the war with France, and was stationed in Ireland (ib. v. 140, 201, 214). He was afterwards transferred to the Netherlands, and served under Marlborough throughout his campaigns. He particularly distinguished himself at the siege of Lille in 1708, and was rewarded by being despatched to Lord Sunderland with the news of the capitulation (Marlborough Despatches, ed. Murray, 1845, i. 224, 542, ii. 530, iv. 274). On 1 Jan. 1705–6 he attained the rank of brigadier-general; on 1 Jan. 1708–9 he was promoted to that of major-general; he was created lieutenant-general on 1 Jan. 1709–10, and in the same year he received the colonelcy of the 4th dragoons (Luttrell, vi. 548, 686). Sir Richard's military career was interrupted by his political principles. Like his father, he was a staunch whig, and in consequence he was not included in the list of officers nominated to serve in Flanders under the Duke of Ormonde. In 1713 his regiment was given to Lieutenant-general William Evans.

On the accession of George I Temple was at once taken into favour. On 19 Oct. 1714 he was created Baron Cobham of Cobham in Kent, being descended through his grandmother, Christian Leveson, from William Brooke, tenth lord Cobham (1527–1597). He was sent as envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the emperor Charles VI to announce the accession of the new king. After his return he was made colonel of the 1st dragoons in June 1715, and on 6 July 1716 he was appointed a privy councillor. In the same year he became constable of Windsor Castle, and on 23 May 1718 was created Viscount Cobham. On 21 Sept. 1719 he sailed from Spithead in command of an expedition which was originally destined to attack Coruña. Finding that place too strong, however, he attacked Vigo instead, captured the town, and destroyed the military stores accumulated there (Addit. MS. 15936, f. 270). On 10 April 1721 he was appointed colonel of the ‘king's own’ horse, in 1722 comptroller of the accounts of the army, and governor of Jersey for life in 1723 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. iv. 138).

Until 1733 Cobham, with the rest of the whigs, supported Walpole's ministry. In that year he strongly opposed Walpole's scheme of excise (ib. 8th Rep. i. 18). This difference led to others, and, in consequence of a strongly worded protest against the protection of the South Sea Company's directors by the government, Lord Cobham and Charles Paulet, third duke of Bolton [q. v.], were dismissed from their regiments. In the case of an old and tried soldier like Lord Cobham this proceeding caused a great sensation. Bills were introduced in both houses to take from the crown the power of breaking officers, and motions were made to petition the king to inform them who had advised him to such a course. By breaking with Walpole Cobham forfeited the favour of the king; but by opposing the excise he gained the esteem of the Prince of Wales, and by assailing the South Sea Company he obtained the sympathy of the people. In association with Lyttelton and George Grenville, he formed an independent whig section, known as the ‘boy patriots,’ which in 1735 was joined by William Pitt (Hervey, Memoirs, i. 165, 215, 245, 250, 288, 291; Coxe, Life of Walpole, 1798, pp. 406, 409; Gent. Mag. 1734, passim).

On 27 Oct. 1735 Cobham attained the rank of general. During the rest of Walpole's ministry he maintained his attitude of opposition, and in 1737 joined in a protest against the refusal of the upper house to request the king to settle 100,000l. a year on the Prince of Wales out of the civil list (Hervey, Memoirs, iii. 89–90). After Walpole's downfall a coalition was effected among Lord Wilmington, the Pelhams, and the prince's party, which Cobham joined. He was created a field-marshal on 28 March 1742, and on 25 Dec. was appointed colonel of the first troop of horse-guards. On 9 Dec. following, however, he resigned his commission, owing to the strong objections he conceived to employing British troops in support of Hanoverian interests on the continent (Addit. MS. 32701, f. 302).

In 1744, on the expulsion from the cabinet of John Carteret, lord Granville, the chief supporter of the continental policy, the greater part of the whig opposition effected a coalition with the Pelhams, in which Lord Cobham joined on receiving a pledge from Newcastle that the interests of Hanover should be subordinated to those of England. On 5 Aug. he was appointed colonel of the 1st dragoons, which was exchanged in the following year for the 10th.

Cobham died on 13 Sept. 1749, and was buried at Stowe. He married Anne, daughter of Edmund Halsey of Stoke Pogis, Buckinghamshire, but had no issue. According to the terms of the grant he was succeeded in the viscounty and barony by his sister Hester, wife of Richard Grenville of Wootton, Buckinghamshire. He was succeeded in the baronetcy by his cousin, William Temple, great-grandson of Sir John Temple of Stanton Bury, who was the second son of Sir Thomas Temple, the first baronet.

Cobham rebuilt the house at Stowe and laid out the famous gardens. He was a friend and patron of literary men, whom he frequently entertained there. Both Pope and Congreve celebrated him in verse—Pope in the first of his ‘Moral Essays,’ and Congreve in ‘A Letter to Lord Cobham’ (1729). Richard Glover dedicated to him his ‘Leonidas.’ Pope was a frequent visitor at Stowe, and Congreve was honoured by a funeral monument there distinguished by its singular ugliness (Swift, Works, ed. Scott, index; Pope, Works, ed. Elwin, index; Ruffhead, Life of Pope, 1769, p. 212; Egerton MS. 1949, ff. 1, 3).

Cobham was a member of the Kit-Cat Club, and his portrait was painted with those of the other members by Sir Godfrey Kneller [q. v.] It was engraved by Jean Simon, and in 1732 by John Faber the younger. Another portrait, painted by Jean Baptiste Van Loo, was purchased for the National Portrait Gallery in June 1869; it was engraved by George Bickham in 1751, and by Charles Knight in 1807 (Smith, British Mezzotint Portraits, pp. 380, 1120; Bromley, Cat. of British Portraits, p. 257).

[Prime's Account of the Temple Family, New York, 3rd edit. 1896; G. E. C[okayne]'s Peerage, ii. 324–5; Collins's Peerage of England, ed. Brydges, ii. 414–15; Whitmore's Account of the Temple Family, 1856, p. 6; Coxe's Memoirs of the Pelham Administration, 1829, i. passim; Edye's Records of the Royal Marines, i. index; Beatson's Political Index, ii. 115; Memoirs of the Kit-Cat Club, 1821, pp. 118–19; Glover's Memoirs, 1814, passim; Doyle's Official Baronage, i. 419; Mahon's Hist. of England, 1839, i. 170, 511, ii. 256, 262–4; Gent. Mag. 1748, p. 23; Gibbs's Worthies of Buckinghamshire, p. 106; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. ii. 391; Brit. Museum Addit. MSS. 5795 f. 371, 5938; Egerton MS. 2529, f. 86; Stowe MSS. 248 f. 24, 481 ff. 89–156.]

E. I. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.263
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
38 ii 2 Temple, Sir Richard, Viscount Cobham: after of foot. insert On 31 Oct. 1694, at the age, according to the college register, of 18, he was admitted fellow-commoner of Christ's College, Cambridge. He took no degree.
39 ii 27 after 1729. insert Richard Glover dedicated to him his ‘Leonidas.’